KRISHNAMACHARI SRIKKANTH: HOW TO OPEN WITH STYLE
hen one mentions the name Krishnamachari Srikkanth, it is bound to bring smiles to the faces of a generation of Indian cricket fans as they witnessed him change the face of opening batsmanship in India; his walk before each delivery towards the square leg Umpire, the facial expressions only he could make and most importantly, his absolutely fearless approach to batting are the things that endeared him to the masses. Srikkanth was nothing short of a revolutionary in Indian cricket and one of the earliest players to flay the bowlers to all parts of the ground when most openers across the world believed in seeing the new ball out and capitalizing later. ‘Chikka’, as he is lovingly known by his peers and fans alike was truly an attraction for the crowds as there were rarely ever any dull moments with him at the crease.
A Star Is Born
Srikkanth’s cricketing journey started with him representing Tamil Nadu in the 1978-79 Ranji Trophy. His impressive displays saw Srikkanth make his first foray in Indian colors with the Indian under-19 team when he was selected in the squad to face Pakistan along with future superstars such as Ravi Shastri, Navjot Sidhu, Mohammad Azharuddin and Manoj Prabhakar.
Kris Srikkanth was a maverick and a favorite amongst his peers for his sense of humor and mannerisms. To say he was a superstitious athlete would hardly do justice to the man’s belief in the higher powers and his affinity towards his routine about numerology was almost as famous as his swashbuckling stroke-play.
From the very beginning, he built a reputation for himself as an aggressive batsman who wasn’t in the mould of those who had come before him. His exploits for Tamil Nadu and the Indian junior teams soon brought him to the notice of the national selectors and in 1981, he made his ODI debut versus England at Ahmedabad. Just 2 days after his ODI debut, Srikkanth made his first bow into Test Cricket against the English at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium and even his dismissal could be termed as one of the most ’Chikka’ things ever.
While batting on 13 in the second innings, he hit the ball to the off-side and casually strolled out of the crease paying little heed to the fielders converging on the ball and as luck would have it, John Emburey swooped onto the ball and hit the stumps to have him run-out.
The Man for the Big Occasion
Krishnamachari Srikkanth’s career with the Indian team can be best described and understood in terms of his strike rate in Test cricket. In an era when most batsmen scored at a 45-55 strike rate, he stood out with a career strike rate of over 75, enthralling the spectators with his flowing and fearless stroke play and always keeping the opposition captain guessing when it came to field placements. He had all the shots in his locker to score swiftly and could play all around the wicket to the sheer disdain of the opposing bowlers. The two biggest landmarks in his career surely were the 1983 World Cup final and The Benson & Hedges World Championship of Cricket in 1985.
In a match where both the teams were restricted to really paltry scores, Srikkanth made a vital contribution to the Indian total by scoring 38 runs which incidentally was the highest individual score amongst both the teams. India ended up winning the World Cup final by 43 runs which further emphasized how important his contribution had been in India’s biggest ever cricket match in its history till then.
He showcased his love for the big stage once again during the B&H World Championships in 1985 held in Australia. Srikkanth here was a part of arguably one the best white ball teams India has ever produced. He had become a seasoned campaigner by then and stamped his authority by becoming the highest run-scorer in the tournament, scoring 238 runs. The sensational Srikkanth once again dominated the final against Pakistan with a breezy innings of 67 in 77 deliveries, which effectively led to the comfortable chasing down of the target and confirmed India’s status of being the best team in the world.
Chikka also holds the distinction of being the first Indian captain under whom a certain fresh-faced Sachin Tendulkar made his debut in Pakistan. Srikkanth ended his international career post the 1992 World Cup in Australia, playing and performing for his country for 11 years with utmost aplomb.
Chikka’s Second Innings
In 2008, BCCI announced a new selection committee which was to be headed by Krishnamachari Srikkanth. The main focus of the committee was to provide the roadmap for the grooming and building of the Indian squad for the-then upcoming World Cup in 2011, which was jointly hosted by India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. He played a pivotal role in reposing faith in the captain and the squad to ensure that ample opportunities were given to the players to perform and that any form of insecurity regarding selection amongst the players was done away with. India would go on to achieve the world No.1 ranking in Tests for the first time ever in 2009 in New Zealand.
Leading up to the 2011 World Cup, the Indian team was shaping up very well under the stewardship of MS Dhoni who was ably supported by the Selection Committee and the Chief Selector. It was a magical time in Indian cricket as the nation would go on to win the World Cup again after 28 years, leading to a national celebration that lasted for weeks if not months. Interestingly, the only man to have been involved in both the Indian World Cup victories is Krishnamachari Srikkanth and his contribution to Indian cricket is immense.
Through his batting, Chikka left an indelible mark on the hearts and minds of the fans and through his stint as the Chairman of Selectors, he played his part in giving an entirely new generation of supporters the greatest feeling possible- the joy of being world champions.
His stature in Indian cricket remains unforgettable.